Tag Archives: friends

Fighting For Ellie: It’s On!

Today’s a bit of a big day in the whole Fighting For Ellie process, with weigh-ins and the submission of match-up choices at the gym tonight as well as tickets going on sale!

The last Fighting For Ellie event – the 3rd of its’ kind overall and the first outing of the partnership between Princess Ellie’s Trust and Millennium Martial Arts (hence it being christened ‘Season 1’ – was at Newsham Side Club, which is the 350-capacity home to the Punch-Drunk Blyth events. Tickets were to go on sale at Millennium at 5:00pm on a Friday evening and by 4:50pm the queue was so long – and it being September, everyone was waiting in the cold – that they started selling early and were sold out by 4:55!

This time around for Season 2, FFE is moving to Blyth Sports Centre which recently played host to the spectacular UK Comics Boxing: Fight For Kian and which can host a colossal 800 people. So this time the tickets might last half an hour or so!

Seriously though, I’ll be at the gym and can’t wait to see how fast 800 of these things go!

The Sports Centre venue is amazing if ever-so-slightly daunting! Fancy having your first ever fight in the middle of this set-up…

FFK set-up panoramic

So it’s a very exciting day in the FFE: Season 2 build-up calendar – but I do wish it wasn’t coming at the end of a week in said calendar that’s looking decidedly blank…

Training Diary for WordPress NEW

The forever-good-intentions of getting into the gym during the Punch-Drunk run faded, as usual, into nothingness and coupling that with less than desirable eating habits over the last week and I’m hoping I’m not going to be weighing substantially heavier than I will be in 4 weeks’ time after engaging full beast-mode tonight.

I promise that the next time you see that calendar, there will be a lot more colour happening because not only am I getting steadily more terrified as the hours go by – but comparing how I feel today to how I felt last Friday is easily motivation enough to get right back into it.

So I’m off to make some eggs and try to resist sticking bacon on too, I’ll check back in on how tonight went down, or might see you down there!

I’ll warn you now, this will be the first of many, many of these… Eeeeeeeeek!

L xx

Tickets for Fighting For Ellie go on sale TONIGHT!
(25th March)
Millennium Martial Arts

Standard tickets are £25 each.

Ring side at table with waitress are £35 each or £400 for a table of 12.


Fighting For Ellie takes place on 23rd April @Blyth Sports Centre – check the event page here for further details



The Little Jar

I’ve been neglecting my little page a bit lately but a stressful few days have gotten me in the mood to sit and write something. There’s something about getting motivated and creating a thing that didn’t exist before I sat down and started typing, that always manages to make me feel a bit better. A bit less useless. It let’s me tell this wonderfully persistent, naggy brain of mine that in fact, I am kinda good at shit.

So I was thinking today, as I do most days along with 7 zillion other things, about how very fast this year is zipping past and the fact that it’s almost 1/4 of the way through already. Oh screw it I’m going to say it, we’re nearly 1/4 of the way back round to Christmas guys! It’s almost Easter. My 25th birthday is in just over 10 weeks. It’s almost a year since I bound and submitted my dissertation. It’s Spring already.

Just to state the obvious for a second – humour me here and pretend you hadn’t already noticed – one of the various obsessions that my clinically anxious mind likes to have repeated dalliances with is the notion of just how fast the time around which we choose to structure our lives likes to flit by, leaving us staring after it like a hungry dog who’s just watched a butcher run past (inexplicably but it’s a metaphor, go with it) with a string of sausages dangling  over his shoulder; but realises pretty sharpish that he’s tied to a lamppost and has to sit and watch as the juicy sausages fade into memory.

The point is, the year is flying by in the same whirlwind fashion that all of it’s brothers before have done before and all it’s successors will continue to do.

So I think it’s time to stop for a minute and take stock of the year so far. It’s been a big 3 months, and an exciting 3 months. Actually taking a look back at it serves to make it feel a lot less short; it feels good to realise how much has happened in that time. To name a few, one of my best friends and my older-little brother both passed their driving tests. Another bestie started her lessons and another one conquered her nerves and re-started them after a long break. My Mam, another of my best friends and my older sister have all made drastic changes to their lifestyles that they’ve wanted to make for a long time, and are already healthier, slimmer and happier. My big sister started her Nursing degree (yesterday, actually) and is a big step closer to achieving the career she’s always wanted. Another very good friend of mine had an easel built for her by her boyfriend and started to paint again (which is great news for everyone). I’ve had various blog posts shared by prominent mental health organisations and started blogging for the website of a fantastic local (for now) organisation. I’ve also signed up and been in training for my first ever running event.

So it’s safe to say I’m one very proud lady, with a lot of great people in my life. I’m also more than a little bit sentimental in character, just in case I didn’t state the obvious enough earlier.

So as previously pointed out I’m a major over-thinker and a lot of the time this can make it hard to be positive and upbeat about things because I’m always finding something to worry about. Sometimes it feels like there’s a sunny, positive, probably pretty annoying person inside me trying to burst out, but she’s held back by frustratingly obsessive worries and anxiety. Last year this finally drove me to undergo Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and it was very helpful. CBT is not about delving into your childhood to figure out the hows and whys of the way you feel. It’s much more about learning how to regain control of your thoughts in order to be happier and, for me, more productive. One of the things I learned a lot about is just how closely our thoughts, feelings and actions are linked and how to employ actions to take back some control of what you’re thinking and in turn, how you feel.

So in order to work on feeling more positive, I decided early in the year after seeing the idea somewhere on the infinitely wise inter-web, to start keeping a little jar in which I stick a little bit of paper each night, after writing on it something positive from my day. Sometimes it’s something I’m thankful for, sometimes it’s something fun I did or something that I achieved. Sometimes it’s just something really funny that happened.


I know, horribly cheesy!

But you know what, it works! I have a hell of a lot to be positive about and although I recognise deeply all those reasons to be positive and I think about them all the time, sometimes my brain doesn’t like to let me really feel as positive about them as I want to. So the idea is that by making a point of doing this every night, I’m reinforcing my sense of how positive my life is, by acting on it.

I guess I’m sharing this because as simple as it is, I have felt a positive affect from it. It can’t fail to make you look at things a bit more positively when you realise how easy it actually is to think of something good from every day; and I’d recommend it for anyone who sometimes finds it hard to feel as positive about life, as their probably-pretty-great life should allow.

And if you’re anything like me, feeling more positive about what you do have will motivate you to work harder on achieving the things that aren’t in the jar yet!

I’ve been having a look back through my jar tonight and it turns out I’ve got a fair amount to feel good about! Here’s a few of my examples picked at random, just in case you’re interested…

“Booked up for Primrose Valley with the fam in the Summer. First time in 4 years, can’t wait!”

“Celebrating Tamara’s 25th in Hertford, catching up with uni mates”

“Saw Andrew Maxwell… at Newsham Side Club!”

“Chilling with Ethan (my nephew) in bed, doing some writing”

“Amazing dinner at Laura and Gary’s with the gang!”

“Had a great day fundraising with Nicole (my niece) and made loads of money! Nicole and I wrote her first ever blog post, too!”

“Spent the afternoon hanging out with Danni (best friend) and Sav (soon-to-be-Goddaughter)”

“Spent a couple of hours at Aunty Marion’s looking at pics of Grandma and Grandad at my age! Great to talk about how they were as Grandparents and learn about them as a young couple”

Our Fundraising Weekend

A little while ago I asked my Mam if I could raise some money for charity because I wanted to help people that don’t have as much money as us. image So I asked Aunty Lauren if she wanted to help and she was very excited. Me, Mam and Aunty Lauren came up with a big list of ideas and we decided on two things to do. The first thing was a sponsored walk from Blyth beach to St. Mary’s lighthouse which was my Mam’s idea. We did our sponsored walk yesterday and we walked about 7 miles in very very strong wind! At one point it was so windy that we were nearly blown into the sea! image image Before we even started walking, in the carpark at Blyth beach, a man in a big DFS truck stopped and put some money in our bucket! We also already had £156 in sponsors on our JustGiving page before we did the walk! Everyone was really generous and they were all saying good luck and well done. image The walk took us 1 hour and 45 minutes but that was with lots of toilet breaks at the pubs on the way! I also went to the public toilets next to the beach and they were ugly and horrible, but thats enough about the toilets! We had 10 grown ups and 5 children and the grown-ups complained more than the kids! My little cousin Jak is only 4 years old and he walked and ran the whole entire way! Weird and Funny Picture! When we got there we had some food and drinks and we bought an ice-cream, even though some of the grown-ups thought this was crazy because it was so cold and windy! image image image image But it was fine because me and my Uncle Liam kept warm next to the van attached to the ice-cream van, at one time we were sitting inside the door of the van! A few more people had stopped to give us money on the way because we had made special t-shirts with red nose faces and the red nose logo on the front and a “please sponsor us” message on the back.” When we got back everyone was very tired but we were excited about how much money we had made. We counted and we were up to about £310. A family friend even knocked on the door a little while after we got back, to give us some money! My Aunty Lauren and Jade snuggled up on the settee and had a sleep, while me and Aunty Caitlin let Kenzie do our make-up.image We made some tea and some cupcakes and then we had an early night to get ready for facepainting the next day. The second part of our fundraising was facepainting for children and grown ups at the Keel Row pub. image Once we had picked Sophie up we went to the pub and at first we were locked our because they weren’t open yet! But we were let in early and we got a table and sat down to wait for my Mam to come with the facepaints and the rest of our posters and things. When my Mam got there we set up everything on the table and people were starting to come in. We painted each others faces first. I did a silly red nose face on Aunty Lauren and made her whole face bright red! I got one done too, by Sophie. image image It took a while for the first person to come and get their face done so we just had fun painting each others faces. The first person to come over was a little girl who got a butterfly just like me! After that some of the men came to get theirs done and that was really funny! One got a pirate and then the other one asked for a pirate but his friends were sneaky and asked us to do Kermit the Frog instead, so that’s what me and Soohie did! He was surprised when he looked in the mirror. Everyone was very very geberous and even though not many people got their faces done, we still made about £120! image image There are still some sponsors which people have not been able to pay yet so we do not know our final, final total but we counted everything tonight and we have made £427.58!!!!!!!!!! That is so much more than we were expecting when we set our first target of £50! I feel really happy that we have made so much. From one little idea that I had it has spread and spread with people sharing and sharing it, from our friends to their friends to their friends. image Thank you very much everyone for sponsoring us. I’ve had a great weekend and I cant believe how much I’ve raised with everyones help. Thank you!

And thank you especially  to my Mam for helping with everything and making sure we didn’t forget anything, so everything could be perfect!

image The funniest part of the whole weekend was when my Dad let me paint his face as Raphael! I even painted his spiky hair (not that he has much)! image Thank you everyone! Love Nicole Barnes xxx

Lessons Learned Last Weekend

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am in equal measures too lazy, too stingey and too lazy, to spend much time on various health and beauty treatments. I’ve never had hair extensions, I can’t stand wearing fake nails, I gave up on false eyelashes after a few goes and I’ve never (no never!) used fake tan. Now you must understand I have nothing against any of these things, they all just require that little bit too much effort for someone quite as lazy as myself.

The one pamper treatment that I have always wanted though, but never gotten round to having (again, the laziness), was a proper massage and a facial. So when my frankly smashing bezzie mate announced last week (after trying quite hilariously for about an hour to keep it a secret) that she had booked a ‘treatment session’ for me, I was really quite chuffed! She had taken it upon herself to do this due to the high levels of stress and emotional instability that I had exhibited to her during our regular chats, in the few days prior.

Fast forward to me gingerly (love that word) stripping down to the waist and diving under a blanket thingy in a lovely-smelling little room with nice calming music and a – less calming – unlocked and inexplicably not even fully closed, door. Lots of hot stone and oil proceedings ensued when the lady returned, thankfully closing the door behind her, and I was pretty much having the time of my life. Massages are seriously good people! But you probably already knew that, I doubt it takes many people 24 years to get round to having one. Anyway I loved it, even if I did have to concentrate really quite hard for the first 5 minutes on not laughing out loud at the mental image of ho my face must look squidged through the little hole in the table, as seen from below. Or at memories of the Friends episode with Phoebe, Monica and those inappropriate noises. What can I say, I’m a very sophisticated individual.

Even I had to make an effort for my brother's wedding
Even I had to make an effort for my brother’s wedding

For the second half hour I had elected to have a facial, so after discussing my skin type and appropriate face masks for a few minutes, I awkwardly wriggled over onto my back and the lovely lady (she was very lovely, I don’t think I mentioned that yet) got to work on my mush. This second part was more of a chatty affair and she was, as I say, very lovely and fun to talk to. About half way through the facial regime came the face mask and once this was applied and doing it’s thing I was given a very relaxing and almost sleep inducing head massage (you’ll know if you follow this blog that dozing off is always a strong possibility for me in any sort of relaxation, or just any sitting down, situation).

Soon my normal-dry skin was sufficiently cleansed, scrubbed, moisturised, toned, sanded and polished (OK I may have made up a couple of those but you get the point) and I had re-dressed my top half under the blanket thingy somewhat in the style that we used to after swimming lessons in the little pool at middle school, all too aware that there was a room full of maniacally hormonal teenage lads on the other side of the door, who despite the teachers’ best efforts, weren’t always successfully kept on the other side of that door. I got dressed in this fashion because the lady had vacated the room and left the door ajar again. Weird. I realise of course that you’re probably sat there wondering exactly why I didn’t shut the door. Well with hindsight, I’m not really sure why I didn’t! I guess I was half worried that there was some little quirk with the door that meant it was prone to jamming and needed a skilled ‘knack’ to get it open again from the inside. So survival instinct and fear of embarrassment at having to bang on the door to be let out, prevented me from closing the door. At any rate, it simply didn’t present itself as a viable option at the time.

Anyway overall my hour’s session was most enjoyable. It was great to be pampered for a while and I felt nicely relaxed enough by the end to nod sleepily through the ‘aftercare’ instructions, which included advice to try to abstain from caffeine and alcohol for the rest of the day as either of these could cause headaches. Something about having given the lymphatic system a kick up the backside? Anyway I nodded sleepily and completely ignored this advice. Straight to Danielle’s for a cuppa it was, with a stop en route at the newsagents to pick up a bottle of wine to be had with dinner at our friends’ house in a few hours time.

Alas it turned out the lady knew her beans! After one cup of (fully caffeinated) tea the day started to take a bit of a downturn, in the shape of a steadily worsening headache. By the time we got to our friends’ house, well let’s just say it’s a good job all of the company were very close friends who’ve seen me at my worst long before now as I was not doing well at all! I had to start speaking more slowly than a stupid English tourist trying to communicate with a Spanish waiter, to ensure my mouth was saying the same words that my brain was thinking. It wasn’t too much longer before my right eye started to behave very much like an old TV that had lost signal in high winds. Next was the forehead-splitting headache and churning stomach. Then as quickly as it had started, it began to sidle away and within 3 hours start to finish, I had gone through an entire migraine cycle and come out the other end even chirpier than usual, in fact I couldn’t shut up and the wine started to look particularly attractive.

A couple of hours, a veritable banquet of homecooked food and a few glasses of wine later and I’d had a lovely night, a great catch up with some of my best friends in the world and some great conversation! This was 4 days ago now and my head has been quite achey in an on-off, annoying niggly type fashion since, which I’m really hoping is going to politely sod off pretty soon but overall, I’m all good!

Having read up on it since, head massage, if one is not used to it, apparently an bring on migraine attacks, which I can fully believe as this was the first one I’ve had in around 12 years!

So in summary:
– Back massages are ace!
– Although a head massage feels bloody great at the time, I will probably never ever ever be having one ever again
– Migraines are scary and they make me want to cry and get cuddles from Mammy
– My friends are by far the best that a whingey stresshead could ever ask for!

Most of my main ladies (with the exception of Nikki!)
Most of my main ladies (with the exception of Nikki-we need more photos all together!)

On Why I’ll Never Stop being a Chatterbox

One night this week while having a few cocktails with some work friends, to say farewell to someone who is moving on to pastures new, I got possibly the best compliment I could ever ask for. One of the girls told me that since meeting and getting to know me, she feels a lot more comfortable with talking about mental health.

It was said in such an unassuming, casual way and I think that’s partly why it meant so much. I’m not one to easily accept compliments at face value (I doubt myself way too much to do the easily) and after all we had enjoyed considerably more 2-4-1 cocktails than had originally been intended. But I knew that this was said genuinely, mainly because it was clear after she saw my reaction that she hadn’t a clue it was going to mean as much to me as it does.

Now I want to stress that this was a work friend I haven’t known for all that long and whose knowledge of my life and experiences is comprised only of what I have posted on this blog since I started it before Christmas, and a few mental health-related conversations here and there at work. Natural, unobtrusive, day-to-day conversations about mental health and mental illness. This is not someone who I have dramatically opened up my heart and soul to and sat sharing experiences with for hours on end.

This is not someone who has come to me with problems that they wanted to talk about, or who is having a hard time with their own mental health, as far as I know. Any discussion that we have had about these issues has been just that, basically just every day chat.

So being a chatterbox can be a good thing – take that teachers of Blyth!

As you’ll know if you follow this blog or have basically ever met me in the last 5 years or so, I think that being open about my own experiences with mental illness is the best gift that I can give back to all of the people who have supported me through them – whether by telling me about their’s, talking to me about mine, or just not running a mile when they’ve realised I am about as far as it gets from this mythical ‘normal’ person people are always banging on about. I am what could be described as ‘aggressively’ open about my experiences and I’m fully aware that I’ve made people feel uncomfortable on occasion with my openness. After all unfortunately, the stiff upper lip is not yet dead .

I know as well as anyone that having the courage to ask that friend who doesn’t quite seem themselves lately if there is anything they want to talk about, then listening while they tell you about the ‘weird’ things happening in their head lately and not running a mile, is important. Spending some time reading up on OCD or anorexia or post-natal depression or schizophrenia or bipolar disorder or bulimia or anxiety disorders because you’re worried about someone close to you, so that you can understand what they may be going through and how you can offer them the best support, is crucial.

But what is at the very root of fighting the stigma around mental illness, in my eyes, and what has the power to allow all of these types of support to become more widely available for everyone and even become ingrained in the way that we think about each other and about our health; really is just being willing to chat about it. It’s about not going awkwardly silent if it is inadvertently brought up in a conversation with your workmates. It’s about not ignoring that it may be a factor in whatever it is that you happen to be chatting about, because you don’t want to ‘bring the mood down.’

It would seem that we don’t need to have personal experiences of mental illness and/or to share those experiences with the world, in order to make a contribution to the opening up of discourse around mental health, we just need to allow it to be a topic of everyday, ‘normal’ conversation.

This way we can help to show everyone that it is an everyday, ‘normal’ issue and help to banish the “I’m a freak” belief system that can make mental illnesses even more difficult to deal with.

The Woes of Resting Bitch Face

So I’ve recently returned from a positively lovely weekend in Hertford visiting friends from Uni.

I traveled on the overnight National Express bus on Thursday, arriving almost without a hitch in Stevenage bus station at 7am on Friday. I was met there by Tamara – one of my housemates from first and second year – who had brought me the world’s most appreciated flask of hot, milky, sugary tea, ready for our connecting train to the beautiful Hertford. If there’s one thing you learn about each other whilst living together for two years at Uni, it’s how people like their tea! You drink a lot of that shit and you can’t be seen to be dodging putting-the-kettle-on duties. That is of course unless you’re me, as my cuppas are in many ways like snowflakes, fingerprints or a tiger’s stripes, i.e. no two cups of tea that I have ever made have been the same (in taste, colour, temperature, consistency). So I was practically begged not to make them.

In fact the first (and one of the last) times I offered to make a ’round’ of teas was in my first year of Uni and it really was a sight to behold. Although most people asked for them exactly the same we were able to spend 10 minutes once they were made arranging them in order of colour, from deepest brown to murky grey.

It’s just occurring to me now actually that it’s fairly fitting that I should meet Tamara at a bus stop after not seeing her for a few months. After all I actually met her for the first time, along with the rest of my 1st year adoptive flatmates, in the same place (a bus stop I mean, not specifically a bus stop in Stevenage – the original one was in Sunderland). It was the morning after my utterly disastrous first night out in our campus bar, where I made what you wouldn’t so much call friends, as mildly uncomfortable acquaintances whom for quite a while I harboured the desire to poke enthusiastically in the eyes. The 4 girls I went out with decided at around 1am that they didn’t want to wait any longer for a 6-seater taxi and got into a regular one, leaving me stood on my own without a clue of where I was. Anyway the next day, carrying on the theme from that gloriously Inbetweeners-esque episode, I was being the way cool guy that I always have been and heading to Uni to register on my lonesome, definitely contemplating in some dark recess of my mind calling Mammy and making her come get me; when I bumped into Becca, Fee, Sophie and Tamara, at the bus stop outside my halls. After a day that consisted of us registering then wandering aimlessly around town together struggling to understand each other’s accents, followed by the succession of rather messy nights out that comprised our Fresher’s Week, I promptly more or less moved into their flat, proceeding to use the room in my flat across the car park as a glorified (and expensive) wardrobe for the next 8 months. The rest, as they say, is history.

Anyway back to my journey, I say it went almost without a hitch because there was a bit of a dodgy 30 minutes there when we were stuck in traffic outside Milton Keynes (at 5:30am, these Southerners need to learn to go to sleep) and I was perilously close to missing my second bus from Milton Keynes to Stevenage. Thankfully I didn’t and was spared the joys of waiting in a cold and not entirely safe bus station for 4 hours, for another bus!

I’m happy to report, though, that my falling-asleep-in-public skills did come in very handy on this outgoing journey and I slept for a good few hours of it.

The return journey on Monday was a lot shorter and marginally more comfortable, which was much appreciated after a weekend during which the ratio of hours spent asleep and hours spent consuming alcohol was a very enjoyable one, but not without it’s negative consequences. I got the train from Hertford-Stevenage then Stevenage-Newcastle, followed by the Metro to Four Lane Ends and a lift home from there.

The first thing I learned from the weekend’s is that I desperately need to pass my driving test and invest in a car.

The second issue that was thrown into the limelight of my irritatingly over-active consciousness during all of this time spent on public transport, was my chronic Resting Bitch Face (RBF if you will).

Now I have been aware for a long while that I possess this affliction, so it’s not like I experienced some kind of awful epiphany whilst travelling over the weekend, about the fact that at any time when I am not actively talking to someone, smiling at something, or laughing, I tend to have – to use what I think is the most accurate and simplest description – a face-like-a-smacked-arse.

I already knew this.

The clues have always been there in the frankly unnecessary amount of times I am told by friends to smile, or – slightly but not much less often – asked if I’m OK.

I don’t know what causes this phenomenon and I know I’m not by any means the only one to experience it. I guess my face just likes to screw me over.

This is a classic example from many, many moons ago and an absolute favourite snap of mine, don’t I just look thrilled to be alive…

Resting Bitch Face (RBF) at it’s Absolute Best

Anyway, what I do know is that when you spend hours on end on your own on board public transport where there are strangers in the form of other passengers, this issue can be greatly highlighted.

I also have quite a tendency, owing to the aforementioned over-active brain and the amount of thinking that it insists on doing at all times, to stare off into the distance (or what I believe at the time is the distance) for often undetermined periods of time. Now the problem arises on occasions – and there have been many – when my eye line towards said distance happens to be inconveniently occupied by another human, or as in the following example, another passenger.

Basically what I’m saying is that when you’re sitting on a bus across from the same guy for 7 hours+ and you haven’t said hello or otherwise acknowledged him – because it’s an overnight bus and nobody wants to make small talk that will only serve to prevent themselves and others from being asleep – it comes as an unpleasant surprise when you find that said fellow passenger is looking at you uncomfortably out of the corner of their eye  – and realise that you’ve been staring straight at them, most likely looking vaguely angry, for who knows how long.

Happily this happened not long before I was able to escape from that bus and get on a different one, so I didn’t have to feel like a big weirdo for too long.

It’s no wonder really that even though I don’t think I’m too much of a social catastrophe most of the time – although I definitely do have my spectacularly embarrassing moments, much to the enjoyment of my closest friends – I can give off a not-so-agreeable first impression.

It’s not just the once that I’ve been told by a friend that when they first met me they thought I was anti-social, or not-so-diplomatically, “a bit ignorant.”

A few years ago when I worked at McDonald’s, some of my work mates broke the news that when I first started, they couldn’t believe that I was the daughter of Aileen, one of their favourite semi-regular customers, because Aileen was really nice!

I think the problem is that I’m shy and nervy when I first meet people but I don’t think that comes across, as I’m also really quite chatty and loud, pretty much at all times. And especially when I’m nervous, call it a defence mechanism. So mix that together with an accidentally constant Resting Bitch Face and you can see why I may not always an immediate hit!

And let’s face it, the high sarcasm levels don’t always help.

Basically, if I was a friends character I’d be Chandler, every time!

Punch Drunk Blyth – reigniting a community?

When some friends asked me a while ago if I wanted to go to a comedy gig at the Social Club at the bottom of my street, I thought it sounded like a good laugh (hardy-har). It was being hosted by a local lad whose sister I was good friends with at school and still keep in touch with, and I’d heard about how well he was doing.

So I asked my friend to reserve a ticket for me and I forgot about it. Because I didn’t reserve my ticket myself, I hadn’t joined the Facebook group or even looked it up online. So I didn’t know who the acts were, how the ticket sales were going, or even what time the doors opened. Seriously, I think I asked my friends about 4 times the week before while we were arranging who was getting lifts with who etc, what time I had to be there.

The point is I didn’t realise it was actually a pretty big deal.

So I went down – running late as is to be expected with me – and met my friends who were already there and wondering where I was. We found some seats and watched the place fill up. By 10 minutes before the show started, people were apologising as they squeezed past the uniform rows of chairs laid out for the event, to sit on the sofa’s that run along the walls. It’s fair to say the room was packed and there was a definite buzz in the air.

Punch Drunk - the girls

As the host took to the stage it was clear that he was nervous. This was his home crowd after all and they were clearly expecting a lot. Many of them had followed his career more closely than I had and they knew he was certainly no amateur! I was expecting Kai Humphries to be good and he didn’t disappoint, warming the room up with his unique and hilarious take on growing up in our hometown. What I wasn’t expecting – as like I said I hadn’t looked into it at all – was the calibre of acts that he had convinced to play a gig in our tiny Northumberland mining and port town on a Monday night, at the social club.

When Kai introduced the first act I recognised the name and when he came on stage I realised that I had seen him a few times on TV. It was a young scottish comedian called Daniel Sloss who is quite simply far too successful to be the same age as me (no bitterness there I swear)! He’s had 6 majorly successful runs at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and has been on TV in the US as well as at home in the UK (but I still reckon Newsham Side Club has to be a highlight)!

The second act was Matt Reed, a comedian from Sunderland who has played major comedy clubs across the UK. Wisely he elected to break the ice very early on by assuring the room of die-hard Newcastle United supporters that he couldn’t give a flying you-know-what about football! He went on to crack everyone up and by the time Kai came back on to introduce the headliner, I was having a whale of a time (and was also on the right side of tipsy).

Somehow I still hadn’t looked at the line-up (or overheard anyone talking about it) so as fits my typically oblivious way of stumbling through life, I still had no idea at that point that the headliner was Andrew Maxwell, a massively successful and well-known Irish comedian who I’ve watched on TV countless times. Needless to say, he too was hilarious.

As well as having a great night with some old friends and seeing some great entertainment, I was blown away by the effort that had gone into a comedy night at my local social club. The work put into the whole thing by the host and the promotions team, as well as the willingness of successful comedians to get involved in bringing something new and exciting to a small community that isn’t exactly in the middle of its heyday, was an amazing thing to be a part of.

Local charity Princess Ellie’s Trust – set up by a local family who lost their 2 year old daughter to septicaemia as a result of meningitis to raise awareness as well as funds for the Meningitis Research Foundation and the Paediatric Intensive Care unit at a Newcastle hospital – raised almost £500 through ticket contributions and selling/collecting at the event. The charity will continue to be associated with the Blyth\Punch Drunk events which will be held once a month.

The initial February date on Monday 16th has sold out and there has been so much demand that the organisers have put on a second night on Tuesday 17th! I’ve roped in all of my family and 8 of us will be going to the Monday night this month. For £7 a ticket, it’s a pretty decent way to spend a Tuesday night!

Punch Drunk Extra Date

This is big news for a town of our size that has a less-than-great reputation. The buzz from the first event has everyone wanting to help make this a long-running thing and people are excited to see where it could go. As for re-igniting the community, I’d definitely say they’re making a damn good go of it!